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NFL players who could be released for cap reasons in 2021 offseason: Jimmy Garoppolo, Jarvis Landry lead list

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Is a Patriots reunion in store for Jimmy G? (1:07)

Rob Ninkovich is confident that Jimmy Garoppolo will end up in New England while the 49ers will land Matt Ryan next offseason. (1:07)

Earlier this week, San Francisco 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said he expected Jimmy Garoppolo to be the team's starting quarterback again in 2021. This was a nice thing for Shanahan to say, but it was not much more than that.

See, this is a business, and the 49ers know that as well as anyone does. They structure players' contracts in ways that afford them total flexibility, and Garoppolo's is no exception. When they signed him in February 2018 to a five-year, $137.5 million contract, they made sure they left themselves options toward the deal's back end.

First, they paid him $42.6 million -- about 31% of the deal's total potential value -- in 2018, the first year of the contract. They did this because they had a ton of salary-cap room and could afford to put the biggest cap hit ($37 million) in Year 1. Of that $42.6 million, $28 million came in the form of a roster bonus, all of which hit the cap in 2018. Only $7 million came in the form of a signing bonus, meaning they had to carry only $1.4 million in prorated signing bonus charges against their cap in each year of the deal.